You mere scarecrow
again and again in my youth
You, bully, your shotgun in my face
I found a way to back down, with grace
Oh you wise men
said this as such would happen
again and again, a safe bet
and you bet on it and the bookie
called all the clever fellows
the deceivers, pretending as you do
to risk everything, anything at all
to call. You are, called,
remembered. Oh, but now
old as the luck you possess
allowed it hides these images
unavenged. These who wronged you.
Firstly, you must not believe what you have read in the papers. I am no mastermind. That said, I was not unwilling in this venture. You know me. I am not a fool to jump with both feet into crazy schemes. You also know how desperate the times are here. General Malgawe’s men have increased their levies on the village to an unsustainable level. The children are so hungry they have forgotten how to smile, yet the general’s men still take what little food remains. To stand up to these soldiers is a death sentence, but they are amenable to bribes. I suppose they are no different than other men in this regard, though what they do requires a harder heart.
The plan as presented to me was far from foolproof, but the use of the lifeboats to escape seemed sound enough. Cruise ships are seldom armed, and the passengers of the Queen’s Line are known to be wealthy. The plan called for a quick takeover, a rapid pilfering, an elegant escape.
It was never our intent to initiate a slaughter, yet it is true what they say: intentions are the stones that pave the road to hell.
I pray you will bear no shame for my crime, and that you will one day forgive me.
Sunday Photo Fiction
“I believe there is truth in the saying it is an ill wind that bloweth no good,” said Maestre Rodrigues. He was garrulous for a sailing master, but Diogo Fernandes did not mind because Rodrigues seldom required an answer.
Besides, he was right. The cyclone that had blown the Cirne off course had brought them here, wherever here was. There was no record of these islands in any of the navigation rutters or charts.
Fernandes scanned the shore with his glass. “I see at least a score of enormous tortoises on the beach. Perhaps there is a source of fresh water was well. Let us get the launch over the side and go ashore.”
“You will need to name the place,” said Rodrigues. “Perhaps you can name it after me?”
Diogo Fernandes laughed at this. “I think we’d better thank our deliverer instead. To which saint does this day belong?”
What Pegman Saw: Mauritius
The three islands that comprise Mauritius were uninhabited except for brief visits by Arab sailors in the fourteenth century. The ship Cirne, under the command of Capitao Diogo Fernandes Pereira, sighted the island later known as Reunión in February 1507. Diogo Fernandes named it “Santa Apolonia” in honor of that day’s saint.
The creatures of the island included prodigious amounts of giant tortoises and flightless dodo birds. The birds had never known predators, so the ravenous sailors had an easy time killing all they needed to provision their ships. The cats and rats they left behind devastated the ground-nesting birds’ habitat. The Dutch, who colonized the island over the next century, further depleted the island fauna. By 1710 the dodo was extinct, as were some distinct species of giant tortoise.
The museum is climate controlled
with inch-thick glass
between the dioramas
and me.This hushes
the history. Sobers
all the miniature people
frozen in time, hand-painted.
A birds-eye view,
I observe the modeled activity,
the huts, the plains. Look:
the hunters have killed
a deer. I cannot see
the women waiting inside
the smoky hut,
the central fire, naked
toddlers pissing in the dust.
Vermin-riddled beds of sticks and hide.
The darkness, the stench.
Each newborn shrieking
a chanting woman biting the cord
I grow bored by imagination,
walk away quietly
to another part of the museum
where behind the glass are genuine bones
painstakingly articulated to show
this long-dead woman stirring
a pot. I see every tooth in her head.
The Daily Post: Scale
I don’t recall the picture, only that it starred an actor who was young and handsome at the start of his career fifty years ago but was now an aged relic. Dark thoughts in the darkened theater as I watched the folds of wizened skin beneath the famous chiseled jaw, pouches beneath the steel-gray eyes. Projected on the screen at fifty times life size, .
He’d been a hero once but had changed into the old man in front of millions.
On the drive home, I keep glancing at my own eyes in the mirror. My private degradation, just as certain.
I was born in Mingo County, near the town of Matewan. My family was all coal miners. After them Baldwin-Felts men killed Pa and Uncle Jess during the strike, Ma wanted to leave West Virginia. I talked her out of it on account of our family being five generations here. In a new state we’d lose that.
I took out a map. At the top edge stood Littleton, which used to be called Milo. Eventually, I wore her down.
Me, I never wanted to be no coal miner. Wildcatter was more my line, being mechanically inclined and all. I heard that oilfields were the coming thing in our state, and Littleton was said to be like Oklahoma in that regard.
We sold everything we had and boarded the train.
Only there wasn’t no oil. There wasn’t hardly even a town. Quarry closed the year we got here.
You can likely guess the rest.
What Pegman Saw
This man, if man he was
we were insulted
when he finished
of evil deeds, attributed.
Corpses piled like firewood
bodies hacked to bits
burned to cinders
their dead mouths in open rebuke
His certain voice explained
it was only a puzzle.
Oh, how we hated him
We surged and gnashed
fists balled, blood up
massing against one another
and somebody yelled get a rope.
So we lined up in the streets
pedestrians with teeth bared,
each of us holding something.
photographs of missing children,
telegrams brought by the priest,
scorched dog tags,
knives, cudgels, guns we knew
as murder weapons,
jars of kerosene
Somebody (was it I)
demanded his head
somebody must pay by law
somebody’s neck must stretch,
somebody’s body must burn.
We called for a river of blood,
yearned to pull clothing to rags
tear flesh from flesh
scream ourselves hoarse.
In response to the Daily Post: Pedestrian
It’s not the place.
She kept telling herself this, but it wasn’t helping.
She swallowed, the acrid taste of bile in her throat.
It was cold on deck, the wind’s icy fingers prying open the buttons of her coat.
She gripped the steel rail as she watched the bow cleave the black water.
The motors’ throb grew louder as the ferry cleared the point and steered into the bay, the deck rising and falling against the chop.
Turning, she watched the dark island recede into the night sky, the white churn of foaming wake.
It’s not the place, she chanted.
“Mr. Rains?” There was no answer. The assistant knocked again. “Mr. Rains? I have a message from Mr. Wallis.”
“Read it to me,” said Rains from inside the dressing room.
“It’s sealed, Mr. Rains. The message is for you. From Mr. Wallis.”
“If Hal wants to give me a message he can come down and goddamned well give it to me himself. You go tell him that.”
“I can’t tell him that, sir.”
“Then fucking read it.”
The assistant swallowed. He opened the envelope. “Claude,” he read. “Stop being a goddamned baby. Bogart is bitching about having to wear lifts. Bergman complains about the script. Try to be a professional for once and maybe I’ll get you top billing on the next one. ––Hal.”
“Fine.” Rains opened the door. He stood elegantly smoking a cigarette, tie undone, dinner jacket unbuttoned. “Nobody cares about this stupid movie anyway.”
What Pegman Saw
I couldn’t resist taking liberties with this week’s Pegman to write about the movie forever associated with this romantic place. Casablanca is always at the top the greatest movies list, but its production was so fraught with problems that nobody involved in making it thought it would amount to a hill of beans.
Bogart was still wholly unproven as a romantic lead and initially hated working with Ingrid Bergman, who was more than two inches taller than he. Bergman herself had no interest in Casablanca, wanting instead to get started on For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper. Claude Rains, who had had starred in The Invisible Man, pouted at being relegated to third billing.
Worst of all, the script wasn’t finished until the last day of shooting, so none of the actors knew whether Rick would get on the plane or not.
Despite the friction and chaos (or maybe because of it), Casablanca enjoyed huge success and continues to be beloved by generations of movie buffs.
She loved the city
cloaked in rain and fog.
The wet gray mist
seemed to her romantic.
To me it was funereal,
from the back of the cab
watching the wipers smear the rain
but she was almost giddy
sitting on the edge of the seat
craning her neck
to see the building-tops wreathed
in mists. I watched the people
hunched against the rain as they walked,
infused with what seemed to me
I realized she had been talking.
I was not listening, had never listened
and in the dry luxury of this taxi
was no longer watching
anything, wet or dry.
Written in response to The Daily Post : Windows